Instructor tells student to drop class or come take the exam after a student’s husband dies

“It’s not my fault, it’s not like I’m sitting at home and I don’t want to take the test,” said Briana Gabriel, a biology major.

Natalia Ribeiro, News Editor

Editor’s note: The University Press has clarified this story to properly reflect the title of Alberto Haces, provide comments from media relations personnel, and better detail the policies of Haces’ class.

Some students in a university science class are frustrated about how an educator responded to the death of a classmate’s husband. Just two days before the first exam of the semester, biology major Briana Gabriel’s husband, Tony, passed away from pneumonia on Sept. 13.

Gabriel approached Alberto Haces, the senior instructor of her Biochemistry 1 class, about her situation but did not receive the compassion she expected. Gabriel said that Haces told her to take the exam, miss the exam and have it dropped, or drop the class.

According to the class syllabus, there are no make-up assessments for students who miss the first of the three exams. If a student misses a test due to illness or any other reason, that test is dropped from the students’ overall class grade. 

Should a student miss a second or final exam during the semester, the student would receive a grade of zero unless the student either notifies the professor they’ll be absent or the student presents a legitimate, documented reason for missing a test. 

In the syllabus, proper documentation for a medical problem requires a hospital visit with discharge papers and filled prescriptions (no walk-in clinic) or a similar indication from the doctor. The student must also provide the doctor’s phone number. If the conditions are met, a make-up test will be given but will be in essay format. 

“If I had to accommodate multiple students at multiple times with [different] versions, I would have a [logistical] nightmare on my hands,” said Haces. “This is why I drop a test.”

After Gabriel sent Haces an email explaining her situation, Haces replied saying that she must take the exam or the best he could do was give her an incomplete. 

An incomplete in a class is given when a student doesn’t finish their course due to unforeseen circumstances. Such a distinction gives them a year to finish the course. 

According to the FAU Catalog, a document describing student policies and regulations, a student can withdraw from all classes due to exceptional circumstances and may receive a refund when the request for withdrawal is granted.

The circumstances can be student illness, military conscription, or death of an immediate family member, etc. In order for a student to receive the withdrawal, they must contact the Dean of Students to submit paperwork or visit the exceptional circumstances website.

Gabriel says Haces was the only instructor who would not allow her to reschedule. Because Gabriel is slated to graduate in December, she was trying to avoid dropping a class.

“It’s not my fault, it’s not like I’m sitting at home and I don’t want to take the test,” said Gabriel. “That’s not the issue.”

Gabriel eventually went to Samieca Morgan, an assistant dean of students and case manager, to find a resolution.  She claims Morgan told her that Haces has the final say on a test extension. 

The UP reached out to Morgan for comment and was redirected to Joshua Glanzer, assistant vice president for media relations and public affairs. He told the UP about the absence policy and exceptional circumstances withdrawal that is noted in the FAU catalog.

The absence policy for undergraduate studies says students are responsible for arranging make-up work missed because of a legitimate class absence. Under a legitimate absence, illness, family emergencies, military obligation, court-imposed legal obligations, or participation in a University-approved activity. A student is responsible to give an instructor notice prior to any anticipated absence and within a reasonable time frame after an unanticipated absence. Instructors must allow each student to make up work missed without any reduction in the final course grade as a direct result of an absence.  

At the end of the exam, she told Haces having her take the exam was the meanest thing someone has done to her.

“I told her since I drop one exam for these circumstances, this will be her drop exam,” said Haces. “I assumed that if she was mourning, the last thing in her mind would be there asking for make-up the day of the exam.”

Biological sciences major Stephanie Rothenberg was stunned by the lack of empathy and humanity from Haces toward her classmate. 

“It’s fascinating to me that this does not constitute an extreme emergency,” said Rothenberg.

“I’m unable to tell you what constitutes an extreme emergency in his opinion so it only appears to apply to him.” 

Biology major Taylor Slaydon couldn’t imagine if her boyfriend died and had to still go take an exam. “I felt really bad for her [and] I couldn’t imagine what she’s going through,” said Slaydon. 

Natalia Ribeiro is the News Editor for the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories email [email protected] or tweet her @nataliar_99.